8 scientific insights about Life that are well worth learning

Here is a summary of eight insight that are - AT FIRST - surprising, but once you start thinking about it, it becomes obvious why it is so.

  1. Optimistic people are much less likely to die of heart attacks than pessimists, controlling for all known physical risk factors (Giltay et al., 2004).
  2. Women who display genuine (Duchenne) smiles to the photographer at age eighteen go on to have fewer divorces and more marital satisfaction than those who display fake smiles (Keltner et al., 1999).
  3. Positive emotion reduces at least some racial biases. For example, although people generally are better at recognising faces of their own race than faces of other races, putting people in a joyful mood reduces this discrepancy by improving memory for faces of people from other races (Johnson & Fredrickson, 2005).
  4. Externalities (e.g., weather, money, health, marriage, religion) added together account for no more than 15% of the variance in life satisfaction (Diener et al.,1999)
  5. Economically flourishing corporate teams have a ratio of at least 2.9:1 of positive statements to negative statements in business meetings, whereas stagnating teamshave a much lower ratio; flourishing marriages, however, require a ratio of at least 5:1 (Gottman & Levenson, 1999; Fredrickson & Losada, 2005).
  6. Self-discipline is twice as good a predictor of high school grades as IQ (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005).
  7. Happy teenagers go on to earn very substantially more income 15 years later than less happy teenagers, equating for income, grades and other obvious factors (Diener et al., 2002).
  8. How people celebrate good events that happen to their spouse is a better predictor of future love and commitment than how they respond to bad events (Gable et al.,2004).

The nature of the internet is such that we are exposed thousands of potential life-changing insights on any given day. The eight listed here all have that potential, but chances are that all that they get is a cursory glance.

More's a pity...


Why you can’t have what you want (in life and in business)

You can’t have what you want because what you want can’t be had.

And the reason why you don’t understand what can’t be had (and what can) is because you don’t understand systems thinking.

Let’s consider this on a personal level first, and then apply to business.

  • You can’t ‘faith’ but you can ‘believe’.
  • You can’t ‘happiness’ but you can ‘appreciate the moment’
  •  You can’t ‘wisdom’ but you can ‘choose wisely’
  •  You can’t ‘winner’ but you can ‘try hard’

But let’s start at the beginning.

In the world of systems thinking, it is a matter of first principles to identify Inputs à Processes à Outputs as a matter of course in every facet of life. A common mistake non-systems thinkers make is not confuse the outcome with the process and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to change an outcome instead of focussing on the inputs/processes that will deliver the outcome.

If you bake a cake that tastes like a turd, no amount of icing sugar will change it. Fix the ingredients or the process to produce a cake the way it should taste. Right?

(I have told you in 2007 that you should understand systems thinking. In fact, if you go to ganador.com.au, you will see an example of systems thinking on the home page.)

We constantly fail to identify something as an outcome and spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to fix it.

If you want (e.g.) HAPPINESS, realise that it is something that in of itself it cannot be ‘had’ directly. You have to do something else in order to achieve happiness. (Learning to appreciate the moment is one avenue to happiness. It is one of the processes that will lead to happiness.)

Systems Thinking explains how the world works and consequently that it is futile to focus on the outcomes, but rather to focus on the back-end inputs and processes that will produce those outcomes.

In business we are conditioned to ‘watch the scoreboard’. Of course it is important to have metrics, but it is about picking the right metrics too. The purpose of metrics is to guide us towards the decisions we must take and the things we must do.

Customer Satisfaction, Profit and Sales are examples of useless metrics. (Okay, maybe less useful.)

These are examples of OUTPUTS. They are the equivalent of the cake that tastes of turd. Nothing you can do about these variables.

It is beyond the scope of a simple blog post to change your philosophical perspective on business, but if you do embrace systems thinking, you will appreciate that measures of productivity are more effective measurements because it measures OUTPUTS relative INPUTS. E.g. Sales per Employee is more useful than simply measuring sales. Likewise, the Average Sale is more useful than sales for the same reason.

You can’t HAVE more SALES but you can have staff SELLING more and if you measure that, which is what will cause more sales to happen.

By focussing on the inputs (staff/skills) and the processes (selling/.service) you produce those outcomes that you really want.

Keep your eye on the ball, not on the scoreboard.

There is a Silver Bullet after all

This post is inspired by a podcast I listened to where the person had a stroke that affected his brain and the process he went through the re-train his brain. During that process he learned to meditate with a female Buddhist monk, who passed this insight on to him

Our stroke victim wanted to grow in his compassion for other people and he said he thought he had a lot of compassion. The Monk gave him some advice: She said he had empathy, but not compassion. He indicated that he thought it was very similar.

And this is the insight that followed:

No, she said: ‘Compassion is Empathy with a View.’

By that she meant that empathy had to be accompanied by ‘perspective’ or a view of the world and how it works.

The perspective or view of the world IS THE SILVER BULLET that puts the things you desire in context and makes you understand how to ‘view’ that outcome and to ‘appreciate’ it for what it is.

Having a clear view/ sense of purpose or a life plan helps explain what happens and helps direct your choices towards something in a cohesive manner.

On a personal lever your ‘view’ matters: The Christian sees God’s plan, the Hedonist sees pursuit of pleasure; and both of those views will inform how you experience everything. In the one instance pain must be endured and in another it must be avoided.

The Monk understood that empathy was something the individual experienced (internally) but that compassion was something that someone else experienced (externally). Empathy is a warm and fuzzy feeling, but compassion is something that reaches out and touches people.

If you want to be able to make sense of the world or have the ability to be resilient in the face of adversity or to be focussed on a specific outcome, the silver bullet is finding your sense of purpose.

Now for the part that most people miss.

Everybody HAS a view of life. And it DOES shape how you experience life. Only, most people don’t realise what it is nor how it works. Their view of life was formed by accident instead of by disciplined reflection.

Now for the sad part of all of this.

The DEFAULT view of life for most people is their own personal survival. And under the term ‘survival’ I include psychological survival, social survival and the like. We default to do that what is in our own best interests. Or more specifically, we default to what we THINK is the best for us.

The world is a much better place for all those people who purposefully choose to serve their Country, devote time to their Community or serve God – for instance – than for all the people who simply pursue their own personal happiness.

Not only is the world a better place, those people who choose an external focus for their lives are much better equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of life, and consequently are happier.

There are many stories of people who won Lotto who, within a few years, end up exactly where they were before. (You of course believe you will be different.) The best view of these things was summed up in a Forbes article:

Achieving major life goals, including winning the lottery, or the more basic goal of getting married, doesn’t wind up making us as happy as we expect. (A) big positive event like a lottery win can impact happiness, but its effects diminish over time Why? Because while a lottery win can make a difference, it won’t affect the other conditions of your life, like who your siblings or parents are or your basic disposition.

There are many stories of people who suffered serious setbacks – for example by becoming disable – yet went on to live full and meaningful lives. Nick Vujicic is possibly the best example of what I am trying to say here.

On a corporate/ business lever your ‘view’ matters: A company with a clear sense of purpose – with a strong ‘view’ in the Buddhist’s terms - is one that can direct itself purposefully.

Let’s say you are struggling to be a successful entrepreneur. Your ‘view’ will determine what you do and how you cope and what eventually happens.

If you see business as a game, you will adopt different tactics, maybe hire a coach or even try and bend the rules.  Or of course you may simply practice harder.

The MISSION you have for your business is the director/founder’s attempt to articulate the VIEW of the business. It is the answer to the question: “What is this (business) all about?’

To have a clear sense of mission (a ‘view’) makes the present problems and opportunities so much clearer. In fact, unless you have the lens afforded by a clear and powerful vision, you won’t SEE the opportunities when they present themselves. And you will see insurmountable obstacles instead of challenges.

I have written elsewhere about systems thinking in the post ‘Why you can’t have what you want’. In that post I explain how the pursuit of outcomes is misguided, and why we should measure and focus on the Inputs and the Processes.

Your takeaway is to contemplate the inputs and the processes that will produce the outcomes you want – and to focus on that.

Have you heard the one about Bumblebees not supposed to be able to fly?

The myth loves on...

The myth loves on...

This myth was debunked very nicely by Dr Karl; and the story goes something like this:

According to John McMasters, who back in the 'good old days' was principal engineer on the aerodynamics staff at Boeing Commercial Aeroplanes, it seems the aerodynamicist of the myth was probably an unnamed Swiss professor famous in the 1930s and 1940s for his work in supersonic gas dynamics. The aerodynamicist was having dinner with a biologist. In the idle chit-chat, the biologist noted that bees and wasps had very flimsy wings — but heavy bodies. So how could they possibly fly?

With absolutely no hard data, but a willingness to help that overcame good dinner party etiquette, the aerodynamicist made two assumptions in his back-of-envelope calculations.

The first assumption was that the bees' wings were flat plates that were mostly smooth (like aeroplane wings). The second assumption was that as air flows over an insect's wings, it would separate easily from the wing. Both of these assumptions turned out to be totally incorrect — and the origin of our myth.

The aerodynamicist's initial rough calculations 'proved' that insects could not fly. But that was not the end of the story.

Of course, being a good scientist, his sense of curiosity got him interested in this problem. Clearly, insects can fly. He then examined insect wings under a microscope and found that they had a ragged and rough surface. In other words, one of his assumptions was way off.

But by then, overzealous journalists had spread the myth he had inadvertently created. The story had flown free, even though the bumblebee supposedly couldn't.

There is a lesson in that for all of us. In fact several lessons if we really want to be honest. For instance that much of what we ‘know’ isn’t really knowledge at all. But I want to focus on one particular epistemic principle that we will be well served remembering:

Things that we know today are always overturned in the face of advancing knowledge. As time goes by, we learn things that allow us to create better explanations. But no matter how good the explanation today, there is always a better one tomorrow.

This force of advancing knowledge has a profound implication for our everyday lives and specifically for business strategy:

Everything you believe and take as fact today is changed tomorrow in the light of new evidence.

Just like we once thought the earth was flat and that the start revolved around us, we now know better. Just as Newton’s explanations were eclipsed by Einstein’s theories, everything we know today is at best found to be only partially correct tomorrow.

So how can the Truth change? Well the answer is that it hasn't. The Universe is still the same as it ever was. When a theory is said to be ``true'' it means that it agrees with all known experimental evidence. 

SIDEBAR: This is a point where both THEISTS and ATHEISTS argue their own position. Theists claim that ABSOLUTE truth exists. This is a philosophical assertion based on the notion that ‘it is just so’ – it is something we simply intuit universally. The ATHEIST must argue necessarily that everything is relative. That is, that ‘truth’ is simply that which agrees with all current experimental evidence.
Every person (consciously or not) must take a position in one of these two exclusive camps; one where TRUTH is an absolute and one where it is relative. I find it absolutely hilarious how some people can’t argue against the notion of an absolute truth, but equally firmly adopts an atheistic worldview.

But science has taught us nothing if not that there is always a better explanation around the corner. Some take great comfort from science’s commitment to constantly disprove itself as if this of itself guarantees that we are getting closer to some grand unifying theory of everything. Of course it could just as easily be just a gigantic rabbit hole down which we chase that absolute truth denied by scientists in the first place.

Whatever way you choose, when it comes to human affairs like business strategy, marketing and management and the like, clearly there are no absolutes.

What is right today is wrong tomorrow.

Whoever is best at the strategic arbitrage opportunities and can identify the shifts and changes best and soonest stands to profit most.

But more immediately and possibly more relevant to most of us mere mortals, this shifting foundation of knowledge means that we should recognise this universal truth. The more convicted you are of your opinion, the more compelling the consultant’s exposition the more certain you can be that it, whilst it may seem right now, it is bound to be proven wrong tomorrow.

If you research and study the evolution of the ‘marketing concept’ and/or the ‘evolution of retailing’ then you will notice that ‘the right way’ is always the current way of doing it – the prevailing paradigm so to speak.

Current best practice is always superseded by something better. So a healthy dose of cynicism is a prerequisite in our modern world; for the lack of it will result in us chasing down the ephemeral promises of every fad that comes along.

The bumble bee that is not supposed to fly and the frog that gets slowly cooked in the pot of boiling water are great motivating stories – but nothing more than that. The absolute truth is a bit more elusive and it takes a lifetime to pursue and, who knows, may only be discovered once we pass away.

In the meantime, question everything.

How to build a business from $2m to $5m in five steps

That is a pretty rich title because I have not done it myself. In my defense, I have looked at the price to be paid and I have decided that I don’t want to pay that price. Or at worst I have convinced myself that I don’t want to pay the price when I am really afraid to try; but I am sticking to the former.

Then again, every great coach wasn’t necessarily the greatest player – and all that is required is that you must be a great student of the ‘game’ and it helps if you’ve coached and consulted to a fair few who have done so.

This post is triggered because I recently read an article, proffering the following platitudes that were disguised as advice:

  1. Build your brand with Social Media
  2. Focus on your goals
  3. Sales and Marketing has to happen daily
  4. Build your company foundation on process
  5. Employ performing staff

(I don’t want to link to it and give any more oxygen, because I really don’t think those platitudes are helpful at all.)

I equate that type of advice to telling fat people to lose weight or telling introverts to get out there and have more fun. Of course there is an element of truth to all those statements – as attested by over hundred affirming comments.

But if you want to know the REAL truth, here goes:

Irrespective of anything you DO about your business to take it to the next level, several other things must go right over which you have no control:

  • It must be a kind of business that is capable of generating $5m. That is there must be a market for whatever it is you are selling.
  • Hope that the government does not move the goal posts
  • Pray that a competitor with deeper pockets does not decide to muscle in
  • And so forth.

That is: you need some luck. Your timing and your environment must work for you and not against you. Luck is often the loser’s excuse, but that does not mean it doesn’t play a role in the eventual outcome of a business venture.

Assuming you have some luck, you will ALSO be making a million decisions a month to take your business in the right direction. You must be very skilled or very lucky that none of the decisions you take serve to derail your business. You could easily choose one wrong supplier, choose a wrong web-host, adopt a flawed pricing strategy or implement a promotion that drains cash and delivers no return. This does not mean you are not an entrepreneur or that someone else was smarter or better than you. They simply lucked out by not making the same mistakes. These mistakes are always easily identifiable in hindsight, rarely with foresight.

Now, if you are a bit lucky and you are reasonably competent decision maker then you are in with a chance. If you are already running a $2m business, chances are that you are doing something right; so the things you must do next are the key steps that will take you to the next level:

ONE: Formulate a clear vision of the NEW business model. Let me be very clear: your $5m business is NOT more of the same, it is different in almost every imaginable way. Understanding your new business model is a prerequisite because the decisions that follow are about implementing that vision with processes and resources that align everything towards that vision. (Note: a business model is not a business plan.)

TWO: Actively articulate the new mindset that is required to take you ahead. Almost everything that you did up until this point must be thrown out the window and you need to re-think how you do everything. What needs to be done is quite specific and quite radical. You must understand yourself, your default position and actively identify what needs to change and keep that in mind as you proceed. (I wrote about ‘defaults’ here.) You must really build a new mental model in your mind. (Everything that follows presumes this has happened.)

THREE: Assuming you have the right mindset, you must:

restructure your business so that you are made redundant

reassign responsibilities and accountabilities amongst different staff members

redesign the processes that govern all business activities in such a way that it can scale to the new level – this is what we mean by saying that you work ‘on’ the business and not ‘in’ the business 

FOUR: Do the basics well. This should be easy part, but sadly it isn’t always. Sales. Marketing. Branding. Visual Merchandising. Service. All these are basic processes in the retail environment and the nature of ‘success’ is clearly understood.

FIVE: Implement like hell. Commitment. Drive. Persistence. All these words come to mind for what comes next. It is not easy. Be prepared to fail. But get up, fix it and move on. There is a price to pay: you will be pushed out of your comfort zone and be pushed out of your bed earlier and more often than you would like, but trust me, if success comes easily then it is just luck. Real success is a harsh taskmaster that demands a steep price of its seekers.

These five steps are arbitrary because you could make it more or you could make it less. The aim is that they are not platitudes, but rather spells out concrete steps that can be taken. You may need help to get there, but with a solid game plan and a bit of coaching its amazing what can be accomplished.

Just ask the Waratahs.

Dennis

Ganador – architects of high performance business

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How to live an inspired and inspiring life

The truth is you can't be anything you want to be and you can't do anything you want to do.

History proves that sometimes circumstance or destiny will force us down a path that is not of our choosing .

And common sense will tell you that if you are fixated on one goal, you are likely to miss every opportunity that comes your way

Preparing for your future and achieving the things you would like to achieve must be balanced with a certain joie d'vie and living in the moment. That, dear friend is the ART of living: finding balance between the things you have to do and the things you want to do and the balance between common sense and adventure.

This is ultimately the balance between being alive and living.

This inspiring talk by Andrew Solomon is well worth 15 minutes of your time as you contemplate why you are here.

Long-time readers will know that I have never been a great fan of that whole 'set a goal - believe and achieve' glibness that permeates self-help books and new age literature. Daniel Pink wrote a book called The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need to help young (and old) people understand the world of work. The 160-page graphic novel about a hapless office clerk, a tart-tongued sprite, and some magic chopsticks takes a whopping half-hour to read. The book’s 6 key career lessons:

1. There is no plan.

Make decisions for fundamental, not instrumental, reasons.

2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.

Do the things you do well — that give you energy rather than drain it.

3. It’s not about you.

The most successful people improve their own lives by improving others’ lives.

4. Persistence trumps talent.

There are massive returns to doggedness.

5. Make excellent mistakes.

Commit errors from which the benefits of what you’ve learned exceed the costs of what you’ve screwed up.

6. Leave an imprint.

Recognize that your life isn’t infinite and that you should use your limited time here to do something that matters.

The topic of this post may at first seem strange, but there is much to take from the underlying approach to life.

Read those six steps again and apply that to your business – and think about how your business would be different if you followed this approach to life and business instead.

Dennis

PS: This post is adapted from a previous post in my fortnightly newsletter which you can get here. (And a free eBook on Visual Merchandising emailed to all who subscribe.)

The productivity rules I break to be productive


A recent article espoused the rules Tim Ferris came up with as the perfect ‘STOP DOING’ list to improve productivity.

I can say without much equivocation that I am an extremely productive person. It is a big claim and hard to prove to the casual reader. But here is a snapshot of my email inbox.

There are exactly 5 emails – and all of them require me to take an action that I must do. When I go to bed – there may be one or two – usually none. Even my junk email folder gets emptied several times a day.

I break EVERY ‘rule’ the productivity experts come up with:

Do Not Answer Calls from Unrecognized Numbers

I don’t think I am that special. I don’t want to limit all future human interaction with only people that I know. If someone went to the trouble of finding me or my (unlisted) number I am happy to talk. It may be short but only after I have listened.

Do Not Email First Thing in the Morning or Last Thing at Night AND Do Not Check Email Constantly

I check email all the time – including first thing and last thing.  But I deal with 95% of them only once: delete, file, action or refer. It takes a few seconds per email on average and it doesn’t matter WHEN you spend the time – logically – just that you do it efficiently.

(I have a short attention span, and every few minutes I sue the break in my attention to quickly nail a few emails, then return to what I was doing. It may not work fro everyone, but in my case I am constantly engaged with one thing at a time, and I optimise my productivity that way.)


Do Not Agree to Meetings or Calls With No Clear Agenda or End Time  

This may only apply if I am the most senior person in the meeting. If my boss asks me to attend a meeting I would go and suggest you do to.

Do Not Let People Ramble

What a rude suggestion. We are not all the same. It may take a few minutes  extra to get to the point but if you rush someone or cut them off, the point they want to make will probably be not the same and besides, the most important thing in a relationship is the initial ‘likability’ which is dialled to zero if you cut someone off.

Do Not Overcommunicate With Low-Profit, High-Maintenance Customers

If they are a customer, they are a customer and are treated as such. If you don’t want them as a customer, then ‘fire’ them and then you don’t have to communicate at all.

These are just the top 5. In the interest of my own productivity I will stop there because the point is made:

Be careful who you accept advice from because just because it works for one (or even a thousand) does not mean it is right for you.

Bad news: Daddy is Santa

Daddy is Santa

You started out believing the lie about Santa. Eventually, logic and the slow realisation that it would be embarrassing to believe something none of your friends did won out and you pushed back enough to force an admission from our parents.

So you face up to the brutal truth.

This is a story that plays out around December of every year in an endless cycle.

Some people say – one could even say there is universal consensus – that it is healthy for the child to indulge in the fantasy. Let the kids be kids; even if we have to lie to them. We convince ourselves that it is innocent or that it is a tradition. These Christmas experiences become part of the stories that enrich our lives.

The problem though, is that we carry this indulgence into our adulthood. We continue to live in a fantasy world filled by beliefs about our abilities and beliefs about how the world works that are completely unrealistic. We think we fit into the world by being near the centre, where most if not all revolves around us.

This misguided belief is not caused by the initial belief in Santa, but it is symptomatic about what seems to be an innate human trait. It starts by us believing someone magical will fulfil our wishes and then morphs into believing we deserve good things. And worse, that we are actually pretty good.

There are exceptions to the rule, but a good start is for us not to think we are the exception. Chances are:

  • ·        You are not that attractive. (You may still be loved by someone and someone may countenance your visage – but being loved is not the same as being pretty.)
  • ·        You are not that smart. (Hello bell-curve.)
  • ·        You can’t sing. (Australian Idol thrives on that.)
  • ·        Your customer service sucks. (Research shows and customers will tell you so.)
  • ·        Your start-up idea sucks. (That is why you can’t get funding.)
  • ·        Your friends are just not that in to you. (That is why they never call.)
  • ·        Your blog posts aren’t that interesting. (Google’s got nothing against you; they don’t care enough.)

You don’t deserve to be healthy or happy. The universe owes you nothing. There is no Santa.

Is that reason to despair?

Of course not:

You are not built like Usain Bolt and you will never run as fast. But you can train harder, run faster and run further.

You don’t cook like Nigella, but you can enjoy the meal.
You don’t sing like a Nightingale but nothing needs to stop you.
Being pretty, smart or perfect in anyway is not a prerequisite to living life.

Accepting your limitations and giving life a fair old crack despite those limitations is the true hallmark of a life well lived.

Being deluded about how great you are, either means you have been watching too many movies or read too many self-help books. Or you have never lost faith that a Santa still exists and his sole purpose is to delight and surprise you.

Well, he doesn’t. Santa is your dad. Get over it. Christmas is just as much fun giving gifts and knowing who gave  you a gift – even if you have to go the shop to buy it.

10 Lessons you can learn from Lionel Messi’s success is the greatest footballer

Messi was born in Rosario, Santa Fe Province, to factory steel worker, and a part-time cleaner.  At the age of five, Messi started playing football for Grandoli, a local club coached by his father Jorge. In 1995, Messi switched to Newell's Old Boys in his home city Rosario. He became part of a local youth powerhouse that lost only one match in the next four years and became locally known as "The Machine of '87", from the year of their birth.

At the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Local powerhouse River Plate showed interest in Messi's progress, but were not willing to pay for treatment for his condition, which cost $900 a month. Carles Rexach, the sporting director of FC Barcelona, was made aware of his talent as Messi had relatives in Lleida in western Catalonia, and Messi and his father were able to arrange a trial with the team.

Rexach, with no other paper at hand, offered Messi a contract written on a paper napkin. Barcelona offered to pay Messi's medical bills on the condition that he moved to Spain. Messi and his father duly moved to Barcelona, where Messi enrolled in the club's youth academy.

And the rest as they say is history.

By the age of 21, Messi had received Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations. The following year, he won his first Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards. He followed this up by winning the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2010, and 2011 and 2012. He also won the 2010–11 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. At the age of 24, Messi became Barcelona's all-time top scorer in all official club competitions. At age 25, Messi became the youngest player to score 200 goals in La Liga's matches.

Commonly ranked as the best player in the world and rated by some in the sport as the greatest of all time, Messi is the first football player in history to win four FIFA/Ballons d'Or, all of which he won consecutively, as well as the first to win three European Golden Shoe awards. With Barcelona, Messi has won six La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, five Supercopas de España, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups.

Messi is the first and only player to top-score in four consecutive Champions League campaigns, and also holds the record for the most hat-tricks scored in the competition. In March 2012, Messi made Champions League history by becoming the first player to score five goals in one match.

1.      There is no substitute for talent.

2.      You need a bit of luck and connections.

3.      But it doesn’t matter if you come from a modest background.

4.      If you are good you will get the opportunity to succeed, but you must still capitalise on the opportunity.

5.      In the face of the challenge (childhood illness) persistence pays off.

6.      Expert opinions are not always worth that much – there is a club out there who regrets passing over on the opportunity to sign the little maestro.

7.      It is not about the physical ability, but the mental ability.

8.      His first instinct is to seek the goal: it is uncanny how aware he is of where the goal is even if he has his back to the goal.

9.      He sees gaps and takes gaps no one sees or takes.

10.   The highest accolade is not money, but the recognition of your peers. (Not in the shallow, politicised style of the Oscars, but rather the spontaneous acknowledgement of your peers.) In the face of that adulation, his instinctive reaction is one of humility. Watch this and you will see what I mean.


MESSI'S 50 GREATEST GOALS


If you don't know...

Do you admit when you don’t know?

Some people find it easier than others to admit their ignorance whilst others would rather die than admit so and simply make it up.

I suspect that most people will, if asked, say that they are happy to admit that they don’t know something. In my experience, however, the reality suggests that most people hate pleading ignorance.

It is easy to admit we don’t know something, when that ‘something’ is outrageously difficult, obscure and far removed from our day to day existence. Most people will happily admit that they know nothing about Quantum Physics or the specific atmospheric conditions on the moon.

But let’s imagine that you are a bit of sports-nut and you are sitting on the coach watching your favourite sport, say AFL, with your girlfriend. The umpire makes a certain call. You don’t know for sure whether the call is for a high tackle, a push in the back or an illegal bump. She does not know much about the sport.

How do you answer her? Honestly?

In this scenario, you are now in a position where you must plead ignorance on a topic that will consequently involve a loss of ego. After all, you are supposed to know, right?

The same scenario plays out in workplace everyday. People get asked questions about something that they can reasonably be expected to know about. If there is the slightest chance that the person asking won’t know the difference, most people will straight up lie.

Some may argue that they are only waffling.

But ‘the waffle’ is the twin brother of the white lie. A lie is a lie – irrespective of the nobility of the purpose to mask the truth.

Not admitting ignorance is just another lie – even if it dressed up as waffle that the receiver may not recognise as such.

  • What kind of manager/ leader are you when confronted with a question where ignorance will cause a loss of ego?
  • Is your ego more important than the truth?
  • Is your ego more important than the trust of the other party?

People may rationalise their decision to pretend they know because they think that it displays/ asserts confidence and that people want a leader who is ‘assured’ in their knowledge.

They fail to understand something very important.

It is not the admission of ignorance that harms your ego, it is the next sentence or the next action that matters.

It is perfectly OK to say, “I don’t know’ but I will find out.” Or to say: “I should probably know that, but I don’t. But I know who does…”.

Like ANY kind of defeat, it is not the defeat itself that shapes who you are. It is what you do next.


This post was cross-posted at LInkedIn.

Why you never win

… is because you try to win.

A few salient points to consider from the talk"

  1. When an argument starts, persuasion stops.
  2. As soon as people are confronted with information being in conflict with their worldview, the parts of the brain that handle reason and logic went dormant.
  3. When trying to win over someone whose natural allegiances are not with you, getting into an argument is a sure way to fail.
  4. “Winning” comes from, is a metaphoric struggle for life and death now and nobody wants to die.
  5. Losing an argument means you learn something.

Note: this 'post' was use as an intro to my weekly newsletter. I thought it was worth posting here since not all newsletter readers are blog readers and vice versa. If you DON'T get the weekly #thinkdifferent update, you should think about it.

 

 

Ever wondered why your ideas don't float?

Hugh McLeod of Gavingvoid captures it well.

David McRaney writes on the same thing in his book (You are now less dumb - 2012).

Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do this instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information.

Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you.

Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens those misconceptions instead.

Over time, the backfire effect makes you less skeptical of those things that allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper.

I think these two insights capture the essence of why it is so difficult to get people to change their minds. Because accepting YOUR idea often means abandoning one of their own.

You may know WHAT you think, but do you know HOW you think?

I FORGOT EVERYTHING I LEARNED AT MY MBA, EXCEPT THIS

I spent 4 years doing my MBA. (And that was the minimum – 17 full year subjects plus a thesis; none of these ‘semester’ baby subjects. Those were the days.)

But truth be told, even though I think it was a pretty tough, demanding course, I can count on the one hand the things that I have learned and have kept using to this day. But these few lessons were so powerful that I consider my time and money well-spent…

One of those life-long insights was the discovery of the idea of General Systems Theory – or commonly referred to as Systems Thinking. (The topic of my thesis in the end.)

Anyway, the nomenclature is misleading in some ways because people’s notion of a ‘system’ has bureaucratic undertones, when in fact it is closer to a philosophy.

I am not going to try and educate you about systems thinking. That will take a lifetime because it is a broad church. I only want you, dear friend, follower and colleague, to have the opportunity to become aware of it, and if you so please, to start the journey to discover more about systems thinking.

If you explore my blog posts and other writings, you will see there is a constant reference to the power of little things, the laws of unintended consequences and the misunderstanding of the nature of outcomes.

You can get a collection of writings ON SUCCESS here, if you want to read some of it in a handy eBook format. (Or simply use the search function on the blog or explore the archives by topics.)

In any event, the notion of systems thinking is firmly entrenched as mental model, and it has governed how I think for a long time. Being a self-critical AND cynical old bastard, I am prone to question the things I believe constantly, and I can honestly say that every period of introspection is followed be DEEPER commitment to the validity and power of this particular worldview.

The following image does not explain what systems thinking is at all, but it lists some 17 steps or practical applications that illustrate how a systems thinker approaches problems.

 

 

2 things you should do with criticism

There are fine lines between encouragement, challenging someone to improve and criticising them.

Aside from when you are raising children (I think there is a different dynamic) most adults seem to err on the side of caution.

People tend not criticise. They avoid confrontation. Encouragement is always positive, and criticism is required to be 'constructive' - whatever that means.

If you are serious about personal development, growth and your own success, I have the following advice for you.

1. IGNORE all unsolicited advice and criticism.

It says more about the people who constantly criticise and offer unsolicited advice than it does about the subject of critique.

2.SOLICIT advice and criticism frequently – and learn to deal with it.

Embrace criticism, disagreements and confrontation. More than that, actively seek it out. Deal with it by recognising that the 'criticism' is about the process and not about the person.

Even when someone criticises you for being arrogant (for example) - it may seem at first glance that they are being critical of the person, but they really are simply articulating how they perceive your impact on themselves or possibly other people. It isn't a criticism of who you are. Even when it sounds like it or feels like it (at first cut) - take a pause to consider.

The person doing the criticising may just not have the skill to de-personalise the observation - and you need to simply re-frame that observation in your own terms. Then consider it objectively (unemotionally) and decide what to do about it.

You cannot live you life by avoiding criticism or moderating your actions by the light of every disagreement. You need to be stronger than that. Your self-identity should be strong enough to consider every criticism, evaluate what it means in the context of your own goals and objectives, and formulating an appropriate response.

And often the response is - or should be: 'mmmmh, interesting - I understand where they are coming from, but I am going to continue down this path.'

If the observation clarifies why you may be experiencing certain obstacles, then you may moderate your behaviour to facilitate achievement of your own goals.

I will leave the final word to one of my favourite thinkers (alive) and that is NN TALEB:

Be polite, courteous, and gentle, but ignore comments, praise, and criticism from people you
wouldn't hire.

What counts is not what people say about you, it is how much energy they spend saying it.

Never take an advice from a salesman, or any advice that benefits the advice giver.

 

How much will your life change IF…

As a young marketer as was responsible for a beer brand. Unlike the beers you are familiar with, this was a sorghum-based beer that was drank principally by the indigenous African people. (It was sour and it was looks a bit like dirty dish water and had a relatively poor ‘head’ of foam if at all.)

It was distributed in milk-cartons rather than glass bottles for a simple reason – the beer was still fermenting after being packed (it only had a shelf life of about 3-5 days depending on weather.) Having a (cheaper) carton-based container, also allowed us to leave a tiny pinprick in the top seal that allowed the pressure from the fermenting gases to be released, which of course would have been more difficult and expensive to achieve in an air-tight glass container.

The original packaging was a CONICAL shape, where the top was wider than the bottom. We could fit 15 containers per crate. Later we switched to the familiar TETRAPAK product which is the brick-shaped (rectangular) container as is commonly used today.

This one change enable us to fit 16 containers per crate. Being able to increase crate capacity from 15Litres to 16 Litres may seem like a small change, but it had massive financial benefits. (I can’t recall the exact figures any more, but it was certainly hundreds of thousands per year.)

You could still fit the same number of crates in a truck – but you could carry more beer. It still took the same amount of labour to load the truck, but productivity had increased by 6%.

To be clear, I wasn’t the bright spark who came up with that idea; but it was a lesson I learned young: the little things count.

Virgin has just discovered something along the same lines, and apparently they will save millions with a simple re-design of the food tray in Economy class.

A recent story about a teenager who did some research about font types and sizes that could save the US Government $400m is another case in point. (The actual facts are somewhat in dispute, because measuring font size is quite difficult. But the IDEA remains valid.)

Along the same lines, I wrote recently about the enormous impact of taking a 3% settlement discount on your payment terms.

All of these examples illustrate the same principle: little things make a big difference.

It is easier to see the impact with something like packaging and it is certainly easy to quantify when something physical is redesigned.

But what if …

You redesigned your meetings to start at 10 minutes after the hour and finish (strictly) five minutes before?

You did your staff scheduling in 15 minutes increments instead of 30 minutes?

You woke up 15 minutes earlier everyday? Or searched for a quicker route to work or caught the express bus instead of the regular?

You spent 10 minutes a day less on Facebook?

What if you wrote one page a week of that novel you always meant to write?

How much will your life change IF….


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So, you want to be a good manager?

You would a A LOT worse than follow the heuristics on this slideshow. 

Whilst it was done by a Creative Director in an ad agency, there is not a single insight that doesn't apply to everyday managers.

You may wonder why I don't call this lessons in Leadership (as opposed to Management) - but that is a story for another day.

HT: BrandDNA

Trust is an opportunity

We think we make decisions rationally, but even as experienced business people we don’t. One key factor that influences us is TRUST. In order to be judged ‘trustworthy’ one must demonstrate the following four traits:

1.      Honesty

2.      Confidentiality

3.      Consistency (reliability)

4.      Willingness to change (if proven wrong)

Trust is hard won, and easily lost.

Little white lies and ‘innocent’ gossip are examples of how we lose trust without even thinking about it.

Trust is currency of business relationships so it is vital. It may seem like a ‘soft’ issue’ but it has ‘hard’ business benefits.

Newsagents in particular have the business opportunity to be trusted local community members and help differentiate themselves and build effective barriers to entry against competitors by the strength of relationships built on trust.

This applies to all relationships because all relationships of course, and when someone fails in this regard, we should work together to remedy that breach.

Because it pays to be trustworthy.

The 7 things successful retailers have in common

#thinkdifferent

I am in the final stages of wrapping a project for retail client. The outcome was surprising in many ways.

It was the first time we had worked together. His business can be classified as a mega retailer, albeit with one store only it is a significant business.

After some discussion, my proposal was accepted and I got to work.

On the day I had to report back for the first time, I had to inform the client that I was knock a substantial chunk from bill and complete the project early.

The reason is not because I don’t like making money.

The reason is because he is so good at making money out of his retail business, that I could add relatively value and couldn’t justify my full fee.

Whilst there are probably a dozen or so actions that we can recommend, the truth is that these are quite minor and is really just about the final 1%. (On a big business that is a meaningful number, but nevertheless not the impact I had anticipated I might make.)

I have compiled a list of ways in which this retailer is different to the ones I usually meet. (And I have met thousands and worked with hundreds.)

Of course the store functions well operationally. (Clean, well merchandised, well-trained staff.) Those all the things I identified last week – and it goes without saying.

The question is: why does this particular person succeed at making those fundamentals happen when so many others don’t? I sought to identify the reasons BEHIND the successes achieved – the root causes so to speak.

linked2leadership.com

linked2leadership.com


  1. He is an entrepreneur – not a small businessman. (I won’t labour the point here, but it is a different mentality altogether.)
  2. He has empowered his staff fully (trained them well of course) and they truly KNOW and OWN their numbers – right down to GP% for sub-categories.
  3. He is a ‘nice guy’ – in the positive, ethical sense – and gets along with staff. I am confident that I could charge him 100% of my quote and he would honour it – even if scope turned out to be somewhat less than anticipated.
  4. While he is on-site a lot and stays in touch with the minutiae; even then he focuses on working on the business. (He has built great systems that fully integrate across all channels, it is up to date and produces reliable numbers that allows him to keep his hand on the tiller AND to make strategic decisions.)
  5. He invests (substantially – more than $15K per annum) in his own personal development and growth.
  6. He is willing to constantly, proactively seek out professional expertise and respond to it appropriately – before it is too late in a constant push to ensure that the business is fine-tuned.
  7. He invests and reinvests constantly in the business and the premises.

You may well argue that in a successful multi-million dollar business he can ‘afford’ to do these things – but I also now know that this has not always been the case.

What successful retail entrepreneurs understand above all else is that you can’t start doing these things ONCE you become successful, but that you have to do them IN ORDER to become successful.

GANADOR: Customer Acquisition, Retention and Engagement



What can you learn from boiling water?

It may seem like a silly question, right?

I guess you know that it is at 212°F or 99.98°C (lets’ call it 100, OK – and we agree this is at sea level?)

It takes a certain amount of time and energy to get water to boil.

How hard is it (what does it take) to get water to or 99°C or 211°F?

Very close to the same amount of effort, energy and time than it does to get it to boiling point.

BUT – if it doesn’t boil it doesn’t boil.

If it does not boil it does change. You have warm water, not boiling water.

It won’t become steam.

It does not transform.

All that effort and energy for nothing.

It is the same for your business. It may only need another 1 degree increase in temperature to be transformed.

Just one.

So?

(HT to Wayne Mullins for the idea of this post.)

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